Posted in Book Challenge, Book Review

The Great American Read

You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me. -C.S. Lewis

With that statement being true for me, you can only imagine my excitement when I first heard about The Great American Read, hosted by PBS. Firstly, book lists make me excited because I want to see how many I’ve read, but then secondly, I get to vote and prove to other people that my favorite books are awesome as well!? It’s an English major/teacher’s favorite fantasy.

Speaking of teaching, I can totally see this being an interactive bulletin board in my classroom. I can put up copies of the book covers and let the students cast their votes within the classroom, while also encouraging them to vote online in their free time. Who knows, maybe it’ll inspire them to read some of the books they haven’t read? It might also be interesting to see if any students have read more of these books than I have.

So now are you curious about which book I’ll vote for and how many I’ve read? Well, it made me feel better to know that I can vote for a different book each day because choosing just one book on this list would be extremely hard. I mean, The Chronicles of Narnia, To Kill A Mockingbird, Jane Eyre, and Little Women are listed. I’ve used all of those books as answers to the inevitable “what’s your favorite book?” question.

Let’s start first with the number of books I have read. Out of 100, I’ve only read a dismal 44. This brought me spiraling back to my lifelong conundrum of never having enough time to read all of the books out there. Then I started looking at some of the books I haven’t gotten around to reading that I really need to. For example, why did I never finish Catch-22 or Heart of Darkness? Why did I spend time reading Moby-Dick when I still haven’t read The Lord of the Rings? Oh I can answer that question: Melville was required reading for a class. Then there are some like Jurassic Park that I didn’t even know were books. Overall, I’m impressed with the list that Americans chose and hope to get my hands on these and understand the American mind even more.

So, the book I will choose to vote for? I think I will have to begin my voting with Narnia because technically I’m voting for seven books that way. I also think more people need to read the books and not focus on the movies as much. After that it’ll be a toss-up between Mockingbird and Jane Eyre. Some others that might catch votes include Little Women, A Prayer for Owen Meany, The Giver, Gone with the Wind (that thing is monstrous!), and The Handmaid’s Tale.

Go to pbs.org/greatamericanread to get your own list and cast your vote(s).

Happy reading!

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Posted in Book Review

Best Boy

 

Best Boy by Eli Gottlieb is an intricate story of a man living with autism. For some reason, this topic keeps coming up in what I’m reading and watching (In A Different Key and Parenthood). Most of what I’ve read or seen portrays childhood autism. This book is one of the few that shows what it might be to have autism as an older man. I found this book to be well-written and thought-provoking about basic human rights.

Best Boy

It’s a coming of age story in a different sense of the phrase because Todd Aaron is a 50-year-old man living with autism. His awakening coincides with the arrival of Martine Calhoun, an unstable young woman with one eye and wild ideas about how to skirt past authority. Martine teaches Todd how to make decisions for himself rather than always being the “best boy” that his mama taught him to be.

It appears that on some level Gottlieb is exploring how the world perceives autism. One key event in Todd’s life was The Incident with his brother’s family. For some time the incident is not discussed but only hinted at as the reason why Todd cannot live with his brother like he wants. Later it is revealed that Todd’s brother’s wife assumed that Todd had the capabilities to watch after her two very young children. Todd doesn’t understand that this is his role and doesn’t naturally assume that role without being told to do so. The children get hurt while Todd is lost in his own world of eating in his very special way. This incident is the one that causes Todd to lose contact with his brother’s family and forces him to stay in the center. The question is left of who was at fault in this situation.

At another time, a worker at Payton LivingCenter seems to think that being autistic means that Todd can’t understand him and will thus keep all of his secrets. He treats Todd as a child and uses him as a means to get the sexual pleasures he wants. Todd is his cover-up because he assumes Todd desires a friend so much that he won’t tell anyone. It’s true that Todd doesn’t initially tell anyone that Mike left him alone while working, but when asked directly from a authority figure, Todd tells what he knows.

I would recommend this book to adults simply because some of the subject matter is sexual in nature and thus inappropriate for young readers. There is nothing sexually explicit, but the references might provoke questions in children. I’d give this book a 3.5 out of 5. It’s well-written, but not awe inspiring for me.